Generate Design Harmony: Creating a Product Style Guide

Designing and turning a digital product into a mature and polished one requires standardization, organization, and consistent communication.


Designing and turning a digital product into a mature and polished one requires standardization, organization, and consistent communication. Design teams use a Product Style Guide as a single source of truth for brand elements, messaging, and design to achieve this.

Creating a Product Style Guide takes time but greatly streamlines the design process and ensures alignment among team members when designing new products. If you want to develop a Product Style Guide for your design team, this article provides all the information you need to get started. It covers what a Product Style Guide is and what you should include to facilitate efficient and consistent design, resulting in a great user experience.

What is a Product Style Guide?

A Product Style Guide is a resource that contains all the necessary details related to your product's user interface. It ensures continuity throughout the product's design by defining elements such as typography, colors, layout, and approved components based on brand guidelines.

A well-thought-out Product Style Guide ensures the implementation of the unity principle of design across your entire product, regardless of the screen a user interacts with.

By creating a Product Style Guide for your product, you'll have a comprehensive collection of design decisions and instructions to ensure that all future designs align with the look and feel of your brand.

How can a Product Style Guide help you?

Creating a Product Style Guide early in developing a digital product saves time making design decisions and avoids unnecessary UI debt caused by inconsistent design choices. It also ensures that the principles of design are met by providing predefined choices in your Product Style Guide.

A Product Style Guide is handy when growing a design team. By providing the Product Style Guide to new designers, they can quickly adapt the product's look and feel into their designs.

How do you create a Product Style Guide?

Creating a Product Style Guide improves design collaboration and communication within your team. However, it requires discussing all the design details for your product, no matter how minor they may seem. Deciding how each element should look to maintain consistency when introducing new features or aspect ratios is essential.

What should you include in a Product Style Guide?

Your Product Style Guide can be dynamic and include various design elements and components. Depending on the maturity of your design organization, you may start with broader categories and then get more granular as you develop a concrete style guide for your digital product.

Most Product Style Guides generally include documentation for typography, iconography, layouts and grids, color palettes, and components.

1. Typography

The typography section of your Product Style Guide should identify the selected font for your product, the range of font sizes and weights for headings hierarchy, and additional typographical elements like link appearance. It's also important to consider font compatibility across browsers and operating systems for web-based products.

2. Iconography

Icons are a simple yet effective way to enhance the accessibility of a product. They can be paired with typography to clarify the purpose or destination of an element. Icons also help organize complex systems by representing controls, data, tools, navigation, etc.

3. Layouts and grids

Layouts and grids provide frameworks for organizing the visual elements of your digital product. They ensure consistency and continuity as users navigate from screen to screen. With a standardized grid and layout, the components of your product may appear cohesive when users transition between pages.

4. Color palette

An agreed-upon color palette is essential for brand consistency and setting the tone and feel of the product. Color plays a vital role in shaping the user's experience. Therefore, it's crucial to maintain consistency in the chosen color palette throughout the entire user journey.

5. Components

The components you choose and how you present them significantly impact the user experience. Standardizing the components used in your product helps clarify their functions — preventing user confusion. Consider creating a Design System alongside your Product Style Guide to provide more detailed instructions for each component.

A Design System allows you to document and organize various components, including patterns that define how components should look when combined. For example, a modal may include text fields, typography, and buttons. Implementing a design system saves your design team time and facilitates developer handoff for implementing your designs.

Product Style Guide vs. Design System

A Product Style Guide focuses on the product's overall aesthetics, while a Design System dictates how the components within that aesthetic should look and function. The style guide ensures designers use the right fonts and colors, while the Design System maintains consistency in the navigation bar, buttons, search bar, and other components.

The Product Style Guide and Design System should be developed with accessibility in mind to avoid unintentional accessibility barriers in your design.

Instead of choosing between a Product Style Guide or a Design System, it's beneficial to have both to ensure consistency and standardization throughout the design process.

Wrapping up

Now is the perfect time for you to start if you still need to create a Product Style Guide. Regardless of your design team's size, a Product Style Guide is a valuable resource that saves time. Start thinking about your product's desired look and feel and document it in a style guide. This way, you prevent UI inconsistencies and provide your team with a single source of truth.

Not your average designer.

With over two decades of experience, I’ve not just designed products — I’ve generated record-high revenue for clients with designs that have reached millions of people.

My professional journey includes founding a 30-person design agency, creating and launching my own products, mentoring other designers, and having a long list of satisfied clients worldwide.

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